Photo Competitions

The number of photography related competitions have increased in recent years. This is in addition to the photo clubs running their usual competitions, the idea seemed to have spread widely. I will focus on one with which I have had a first-hand experience.

Worldwide Photography Gala Awards seems to run several competitions at any given time with different focus. It is a nice idea, it seems to stimulate photographers to focus on the competition theme, until the next one comes along. I submitted two photographs to their “Portraits & People Second Edition” contest last year and one of them moved up to the final round. At the end of the contest, they announced that “8420 images were received from 70 countries, 628 images passed the first screening and were entered into the second screening. 274 images of 212 artists were selected in the second screening to be featured in the Book Portraits and People 2011.” My entry was one of those that would be included in the book to be published according to their announcement on July 3, 2011. I was very pleased and wrote a post to share the news with friends and family.

I waited for them to request high resolution images and have written to them for more information with no response. On August 26, 2011 I wrote again and asked why I had not received any response to my inquiries. No response again. On September 15, 2011 I informed them that although I was still receiving mail at it, my old e-mail address needed to be updated. Finally, a message was sent out to the “accepted” entry owners asking for a file suitable for printing with details; it was October 6, 2011. On the same day I provided the needed file and we exchanged a series of e-mails. The person writing was apologetic on several accounts, so we moved on. You can read the full message thread if you like.

On December 13, 2011 I inquired whether the book would be ready for Christmas so that I could give it as a gift. The response was positive, “The book will be ready for preview and purchase online this Thursday, which enough time to be delivered before Holidays. We will keep you posted” the message said. Well, on December 29, 2011 I said in my message “Obviously we missed Christmas. This has been an amazingly long process. I have published photo books and magazines before, I know it takes time. But this publication is turning into a monumental time sink for someone.” No response!

Since then I wrote multiple messages, on January 22, 2012, February 9, 2012, March 9, 2012. The Worldwide Photography Gala Awards did not even have the courtesy to reply to my messages. I wonder why? Why do these organizations run a flurry of these contests, promise a publication by a certain date, collect submission fees from the qualified entries, and become totally deaf-mute when a participant requests information. This was a contract, I submitted my work, paid for the submission as requested. In return the Worldwide Gala Awards promised to evaluate the submissions and select the finalists to be included in the book and publish it by a specified date. They failed to fulfill their promise, they ignored my inquiries (possibly others), and they continue running more of these contests.

Why am I writing this post? Just to let the world know about the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards and their practices. Maybe they promised too much. Maybe they are overwhelmed by work. Maybe the book will still materialize. But, maybe none of these explanations is true. If this post reaches the people behind the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards, they may realize that they did not do the right thing at least in this contest. I am not sure what they can do to gain my confidence again; probably nothing. If you read this post and you are planning on submitting work, you may want to think twice. Unless, of course, you will be satisfied with their partial fulfillment of their end of the bargain.

I hope that this post reaches the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards and other participants in the contest. They need to know that at least one participant has not been happy with the way they have handled this contest, maybe others as well. Feel free to write a comment and share your experience. I will approve any comment that adheres to the tenor of a civil conversation.

I am not disappointed that I paid them $15 for the entry that moved up to be reviewed with the other submissions. The part that disappoints me the most is the trust busting behavior manifest by Worldwide Photography Gala Awards. Shame!


  1. Mary Jane Bohlen says

    Hi Cemal,
    I entered a few art competitions back in the 60’s and70’s that turned out to be scams. We had to submit slides (not an inexpensive thing at that time) and send entry fees.

    At least two of those were later written up as scams along with one where you had to send the original art for an exhibit. Thankfully I was too poor to enter. Many people paid high fees and lost their art and the bogus gallery was never heard from again. I don’t know if this was a scam or not, but I get leary of entering some contests.

    Please give my love to your sweet wife. Bob and I miss seeing you both at club meetings but it has been an extremely busy year as I finish the classes I need to graduate from RISD in June.

    Enjoy the extra daylight— time to go out and evening shoot.

    Mary Jane Bohlen

    • A. Cemal Ekin says

      Hello Mary Jane, I don’t mind entering competitions and have entered several and waiting to hear from a few already. What bothers me is the total disregard of the conditions they promised in return. Not only did they not keep their word, they are also ignoring my inquiries. I may not be the only one inquiring, so who knows how many more are feeling the way I do.

      Good luck in your classes, see you at one of the meetings.

  2. says

    Dear Dr. Ekin,

    You’re absolutely right. Our delay to release the book little or no excuses at all. All I can say is that we have requested high resolution files for publishing to more than 200 artists. Many fulfilled the requested dates but some did not replied and we have sent several emails aiming to have all high res files of the awarded artists. This happened also with our previous edition of the Portraits’ book, which was released a while ago (and can be preview in our page; “books” page). Perhaps we have waited too long until we decided to move forward with the second edition with 60% of the requested images. Now we have done a final layout and have printed a first test. In the next 3 days we’re doing some minor changes in the layout, color profile and solving typos issues and the final version will be ready for preview, and available to the featured artists, by the end of this week.

    As you may see, we have already released several book (all can be previewed in our “book” page) meaning that, even some times late, we have fulfilled our commitments, as we will fulfill this one related to the second edition of the Portrait book.

    Regarding not having replied to your emails, all we can say is that sometimes we are overwhelmed with dozens of emails and have had problems replying all in a timely fashion. The organization of the International Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography which was held Jan 19 – Feb 27 at the Borges Cultural Center in Buenos Aires with 302 works exhibited and auctioned benefiting Save the Children (we raised over 20K for them) was another milestone that conspired to focus efficiently in other endeavors (like a timely book publishing).

    Having said that, please accept our apologies and be sure in a few days you will have the chance to preview the 2011 Portraits book. Be also sure that we have learnt a lesson and next time we will do our best to reply on time knowing that it’s better to keep you posted on what’s going on (or advising of a delay) than waiting (as we have done) for other artists to send their high res files.

    All the best, and congrats for your ecellent blog.


    • A. Cemal Ekin says

      It is regrettable that it took a long post to get a response, better late than never. The silver lining in this cloud may be the teachable moment it provided. I hope that in the future the Worldwide Gala Awards will keep the participants informed with simple Web site updates. The protocol for getting published may need revising to minimize the delays and set triggers to move forward. It may be better to publish thumbnail size photographs of those who do not provide the needed larger files than to hold everything back. I am also glad to hear that there is a promise of better communications.

      The proof of the pudding is in the eating; I will wait and see the proof of the book before I finalize my opinion on this matter.

  3. says

    Hi Cemal, I am responding to your post because the scenario you described is exactly what I experienced with the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards. One of my photographs was chosen to be published in the 2nd edition of “PORTRAITS AND PEOPLE”. I sympathise with you as I felt all the same frustrations as you described! They made all the same empty promises to me! In a few instances the person in charge (Julio Hardy) responded to me personally. I’m sorry to say, but its clear to me we’ve been scammed!! Regrettably, all we can do is learn from our mistake. In hindsight, they should be paying us for our images. If our images are truly worthy of publishing they will gladly pay us as they will make their money from sales of books… Instead they lured us in, used our money, and then IF the book is ever published,they want to charge us $100 to purchase the book!! Sadly, even if the book is eventually published, some photographers will pay for the book!

    I’m sure they’re are many other angry and disappointed photographers, who have submitted their photography in good faith to these con artists! Maybe the photographic community should consider coming together and filing a class action suit? What is even more sad is they lured Steve Mccurry to jury their most recent Portrait Competition! I can’t believe that a Magnum Photographer, and a man of his photographic talent would allow himself to be involved with such a scam! The whole thing is very disheartening to me! Sorry to say the above is my honest opinion of The Worldwide Photography Gala Awards. I hope for us and all photographers involved they prove me wrong! Please don’t hold your breath for proof of the book!

    Brad Browne

    • A. Cemal Ekin says

      These experiences should be joyous occasions Brad. Despite the explanations offered below, the frustration remains as the bulk of the experience. On 3/12/2012 Alex said in his response “be sure in a few days you will have the chance to preview the 2011 Portraits book”. Today, 11 days after that post, I have not heard any news about the book. Yes, they have published several books on Blurb, but the workflow they are using is obviously flawed. Running this many contests, sometimes simultaneously, and creating a backlog is not conducive to keeping to deadlines.

      As to being scammed, I would not have minded the $15 fee had a book came out as promised. It would have been something I could leave for my granddaughter whose photograph was supposed to be included in the book. I still do not care about the money I paid, but being dragged this much is not a good practice. At least we are able to voice our opinion, and in fairness, with an opportunity for the WWGA to respond.

  4. says

    I saw Alex’s response stating the book would be ready to preview “in a few days” from March 12th. He made that statement a few times before, including just before Christmas as you also experienced! As for the fee, I agree its not a big deal. However, just for the record I was billed $45. I guess only time will tell if the book eventually gets published?

    On a more positive note, the image of your Granddaughter is wonderful? She is a lovely little girl… Either way, whether the book is published or not, it is a photograph you and she will treasure!

    Take care, and have a great day!

    Respectfully, Brad

  5. Catherine says

    I have had the same issue. No response to emails regarding the Steve McCurry competition. Also noticed no website updates. Very unprofessional and disheartened to read the above comments. Not convininced that the response from the WPGA is legit.

    When you google this topic it seems many people are feeling the same way.

    • A. Cemal Ekin says

      The book eventually got published but with much delay and frustration. No doubt the organization can be managed better. Good luck.

  6. mickey says

    I must say I have the same issue. The competition was story teller, photos were selected for the book, I paid ( found this blog late, too late) and its been a year, no sign of book or money back. Recived a mail that book was sent but maybe adress was wrong and the send it again. Hoax with big letters! Sorry for all the people who belived in this. I will write about this on as much blogs and pages as possible, so they dont do this to so many people.
    All the best.

  7. says

    Thanks for the warnings everyone. I have just paid £25 to enter their latest contest, but am not bothered about buying a Blurb photo book with my pics in anyway, as already have a collection of these with my own work in them, The entry fees as very fair though – much less than other photographic competitions and they do support Save The Children with 10% of the fees so don’t be too hard on them. I agree that at the second stage anyone accepted should be expected to send in the Full-Res images, and that if they sit around waiting for these and for payments, then that would inevitably delay publication. Judging by the quality of images in the books they currently show on Blurb, I would say they are genuinely doing what they set out to do, so it seems a shame they have caused so many people distress by lack of contact and even worse still, not supplying copies winners have paid for. The latter, if still true, is UNFORGIVABLE.

  8. Robert says

    Stay Away From worldwide photography gala awards, one of my clients won their “First Prize” in 2010, which included a $3000.00 cash prize. As of 2/25/2013, she has not received this money. Julio Harding promise to bring her a check to her hotel during the International Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography (which was held Jan 19 – Feb 27 at the Borges Cultural Center in Buenos Aires two years after winning the award), but he skip town without a word and has made no effort to explain himself or why they refuse to honor this commitment!

    Total Scam!

  9. Miklos Fiath says

    Dear All,

    I would like to join to the club who has not received nor cash prize neither answer from the WPGA. I am still the winner of the 3rd People and Portrait contest but nobody has answered yet, however I have written emails to all the addresses I found. Still nothing, but now at least I know that I don’t have to wait for any answers. What disturbs me that this site is still running and there is no any consequence for being a scam and still collecting the money from the innocent people…

    • A. Cemal Ekin says

      This is quite disconcerting, after so much writing, complaining, repetitive problem reporting they still continue to behave the same way. Perhaps the next step is to find out where they operate from and contact the nearest Better Business Bureau. Sorry to hear that you have the same problem. Maybe someone can also contact a reputable and popular photography site and report the problem. Who knows, perhaps after being exposed on a larger scale may push them to shape up or ship out.